Downtown parking ordinance moves to committee


Ahead of the second and final reading of an amendment to city code in regards to parking regulations in the downtown, Seymour Common Councilman Drew Storey presented a summary of the results of a survey he conducted.

Sent out via Microsoft Forms and Facebook, he received responses to 13 questions from 38 downtown business and property owners and 28 community members.

When Storey introduced the ordinance during the Aug. 14 council meeting, he suggested updating it to limit oversized vehicle parking on certain downtown streets. Several people had talked to him about trucks and other long vehicles in angled parking spaces impeding traffic and causing motorists to go left of center to get around them.

After summarizing the survey results during Monday night’s meeting, Storey asked for questions from the council and public.

Following a nearly 40-minute discussion, Storey made a motion to table the second reading and send the ordinance to the thoroughfare and drainage committee for review. That was seconded and unanimously passed 7-0.

Council President Dave Earley read a letter from resident Tim Hardin stating he agrees something needs to be done about parked vehicles extending into the downtown streets but disagrees with the rest of the proposal. Earley said others also told him they were not in favor of it.

“Is there any particular reason that you didn’t do this (survey) first and then come with an ordinance?” Earley asked Storey.

“I didn’t have as much feedback then, so it was nice to hear from council concerns, so that’s kind of how I wrapped that into the second reading,” Storey said.

Earley said he also struggles with the fact that Storey made this proposal on his own instead of having the thoroughfare and drainage committee put it together. Both of them serve on that committee. Earley said he recently took a tape measure downtown and found the length of angled parking spots varying from 17 to 21 feet long.

Seymour Main Street officials have talked about making some streets wider, but Earley said it would be expensive to do away with curbs and sidewalks to make that possible.

“I don’t know what the answer is, but this just seemed like the cart was kind of before the horse with the survey coming out after the first reading, so that’s why I went and did what I did just to get in my mind. I don’t have a solution,” Earley said.

According to the proposed amendment to the ordinance, where painted lines are used to designate parking spaces, whether for parallel or angled parking, all vehicles shall be parked wholly within a single parking space and shall not be parked in more than one parking space.

Also, no vehicle parked in a painted angled parking space shall protrude past the designated painted space. If a vehicle is unable to fit completely within a painted angled space, it shall be parked within a city parking lot or a painted parallel parking space that can accommodate the entire vehicle without it occupying more than one parking space.

The fine for an ordinance violation would be $10.

During the Aug. 14 meeting, the council narrowly voted 4-3 for the first reading. Earley and councilmen Chad Hubbard and Seth Davidson cast dissenting votes.

When Storey summarized the survey results Monday night, he said one of the questions about perception asked if the current on-street parking downtown is unsafe because vehicles must cross the yellow center line due to long parked vehicles extending into travel lanes. He said 28 people said that is extremely true, 10 said somewhat true, nine said slightly true and five said not at all true.

In regards to traffic safety, it was asked if the proposed ordinance would improve traffic and pedestrian safety in the downtown. Thirty people said yes, while 13 said no and 10 said maybe.

When asked if the ordinance violation fine is appropriate, Storey said he was shocked when 26 people said it should be more, 21 said it’s appropriate and six said it should be less.

Another question was if the ordinance would have an impact on downtown businesses. Storey said he thought it was interesting that 24 said little to no impact, 15 said it would help businesses and 14 said it would hurt them.

The three options of downtown parking in Seymour Main Street’s streetscape master plan were included in the survey, too. Twenty-four people said they like all angled, which is the way most of the downtown parking currently is. Twenty said they like angled on one side of the street and parallel on the other, similar to a portion of the 100 block of North Chestnut Street. Six said they would like all parallel parking.

Another question was if the council should pass the ordinance. Twenty-seven said yes, 12 said it should be amended to make safety a priority and 11 said no.

“I think it will be nice if there are amendments, if we had some recommendations, that would be great. We didn’t see anybody write any recommendations in there (on the survey),” Storey said.

People also were asked if the city should develop a plan to improve safety for pedestrians so there’s more connectivity to city-owned parking lots. Twenty-six said yes, 24 said to develop a plan even if it means reducing parking spots, five said to not waste time on planning or examining parking concerns and seven said to leave it the way it is.

“That was a big point in the streetscape master plan, connecting to parking lots and better signage for parking lots, those types of things,” Storey said.

Hubbard asked Seymour Police Chief Greg O’Brien if a driver can be cited for their vehicle extending into the roadway.

“Obstruction of vehicular traffic, parking or standing in the roadway, I don’t know technically. There has to be intent there to block the road,” O’Brien said. “If you just stop on Second Street, that’s definitely a violation. But to pull into a parking spot where you’re sticking out too far, I don’t know that it would apply because you can still drive around. You’re crossing the center line, but you can get around. It’s not obstructing vehicular traffic.”

Councilman Bret Cunningham asked about enforcement of the ordinance. He said if it would be nonstop, would there be an equal job writing tickets for driving left of center?

“I promise you that entire block can be vacant and people still drive the yellow line,” he said. “If there are any vehicles (parked downtown), people don’t have depth perception. You could almost squeeze another vehicle in between.”

Cunningham said it’s unenforceable, and with the violation being $10, that could deter people from going downtown.

“As a downtown business owner, I don’t want anybody to not come downtown,” he said. “I don’t want to give anyone any reason at all to say, ‘Screw Seymour. I don’t want to go downtown. If they don’t want my trucks there, why should I go down there?’”

He said he’s not aware of any other place in the state with this type of ordinance.

“To come to a place and you’re visiting a business and you leave there with a ticket because you found out your vehicle is parked illegally, I just don’t think it’s welcoming,” Cunningham said.

Mark Hopkins, owner of Bite the Bullet in the downtown, asked how people would be made aware of this ordinance if it passes because a majority of his customers are outside of Seymour.

“I draw people from this half of the state. A lot of people travel over an hour to come to my store, and I’m wondering will they be made aware of this?” he said.

Davidson said people may not come back to Seymour if they travel there, park downtown and get a ticket, and they may tell others not to go there, either.

Hopkins also asked when fines would be in effect — 24/7 or certain times — and Storey said the current wording of the ordinance doesn’t specify that. Hopkins also asked if enforcement would be temperature- and weather-dependent and if there would be exemptions for certain types of vehicles. That’s not specified, either.

Cunningham said there should be no exemptions, and Hubbard said Hopkins’ questions are valid and need to be answered by the committee.

Seymour Mayor Matt Nicholson said it would be up to the police department and executive branch to figure out enforcement, but the ordinance is vague and needs to include more details.

“What are you looking for in this?” he asked. “You need to explain what you’re looking for, Drew. You’ve got to give us something to work with.”

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